Alaska – Travel – Day 1 (2000 miles in a day)Posted: March 14, 2013 | |
To cover nearly 2000 miles in day is not much of a feat anymore involving mostly sitting for 10 or so hours. However the moments between movement merit telling. I started out from Madison at 9 AM in my fly whip (a 1994 Mazda Protege) headed toward Minneapolis. I had done some work on it the days before and the lower ball joint had the nut chiseled off, but after a few hours of banging at the rust it held fast. Good enough for me, so in the hands of fate and tire back on I rolled off. Along with the suspension having some issues the hood had begun to come unlatched at high speeds. Not open mind you, but slightly elevated like when you pop your hood. Disconcerting to say the least. I stopped and bought a bungee cord. I shut the hood with gusto and It seemed latched so, not wanting to look the gift horse in the mouth, I didn’t pop it to attach the bungee. 100 miles later the hood popped and wobbled in the wind once again. Having made more than one stop to fuel up (did I mention the gas tank leaks if I fill it all the way) I decided to test fate further and continue on to make the flight. To my relief (and anyone else on the freeway noticing my jalopies condition) I made it unscathed and in good time. Jackson Morgan (sounds like a pirate’s name, awesome), Josh’s cousin, let me ditch the gear I opted against bringing and car at his place. Being a frequent flier he briefed me on what to expect at the airport. Honestly I was a little anxious about the whole ordeal. Turns out the airlines and TSA have a bad rep for little reason as far as I am concerned. Jackson dropped me off at St. Paul’s International Airport, and after a few words of advice we parted ways.
Although the airport is more or less idiot proof, I still was confused about what order to do everything. The attendants were helpful and courteous. After registering for the flight and checking my bag I had to go through the dreaded T.S.A. Seriously America, what. is. the. big. deal? I am not a terribly wholesome looking person (it didn’t help I was wearing a t-shirt with a riot depicted on it) but the TSA employees were nothing if not calm, accommodating, and efficient. The full body scan took all of 3 seconds. I was expecting a rubber glove, but seriously… 3 seconds. Getting a preferred buyers card at a mall is more invasive. After reinserting my piercings and strapping on boot and belt I was off to my gate. I had some time to kill so I sat down at a pub within eyesight of the gate, got a shot of Jack, a Sam Adams, and fish and chips. Expensive no doubt, but it served to prep me for the prices in Alaska. After an hour or two of web browsing on the slow but free airport WIFI I boarded. While there is nothing inherently magical about the chute they herd you down to the plane, I think everyone remembers the first time they climbed into a sky-bound metal tube. I had a window seat and goddam, those things accelerate like a bat out hell. Having only been in prop planes I was grinning ear to ear as we climbed past 10,000 feet in moments. I of course didn’t shut down my phone so I could film the wings on take off. Happily this didn’t cause us to fall out of the sky. A word to the wise. If you are flying over a different country you departed from, don’t buy the in flight WIFI. I felt so bad for saps who had since the majority of the direct flight was over Canada and WIFI was not available. Flying is comparable to riding in a cramped train through Nebraska except with clouds instead of corn. The ride was smooth and we landed in Anchorage’s Ted Stevens International Airport (fun fact: Ted Stevens was an Alaskan Senator who ironically died in a plane crash) ahead of schedule and without complication. I had to wait a moment for my bag which gave Josh, who was just getting out of Whittier due to an avalanche blocking the road, enough time to get the airport. There was another guy in our party flying in a few hours later so we went to an Irish Pub in Anchorage to kill some time. There was a traditional Irish folk band playing at the pub, banjo, washboard and the like. Josh and I started hashing out plans for the week when the bartender overheard us talking about needing lift passes. He sold us two lift tickets for half the price they would be on the hill. Gotta love the Alaskan Irish. Still having time to kill we hit the grocery store. Two bags of basic groceries cost $75. Amazing. If you go to Alaska, double your food budget. I got a handle (1.75 Liter) of Jack Daniels for $20 off and it was still $7 more than in Wisconisn. We snatched up Byron from the Airport and it was off to Girdwood through a snow storm on one of the most dangerous highways in North America.
We got to our beautiful rented house mere blocks from the hill around 11 PM (mind you its 1 o’clock for me since I lost 3 hours) where the rest of the crew had partied themselves to sleep, save two. Byron, while currently a white water rafting guide, had previously been ski patrol at Alyeska Resort for about 12 years and was itching to reunite with the locals. Kelly and Brandt, the two left standing (or more accurately, swaying), joined Josh, Byron, and myself to the Silvertip affectionately known as “The Dive”. Personally I didn’t find it to suit the nomenclature. After drinks and making some new friends we more less closed the bar and started stumbling home. At this point I decided to tackle Kelly, a poor choice since he had several inches and pounds on me. As Josh later put it, he gave me a face wash using only his index finger. Byron had the same idea and tackled me, except it wasn’t me for I was already embattled with Kelly. Byron had tackled some poor guy on his walk home. When the hapless bystander came up swinging Byron very quickly realized it was not me. After much apologizing and slurred explanations the random attackie gave his forgiveness and walked the rest of the way with us. Arriving home we had a night cap and shuffled off to our much welcome beds.
In summation, it took me about 10 hours of travel from Madison, Wisconsin to Girdwood, Alaska, TSA has an undue bad rap, Alaska has a severe (however warranted) food cost mark up, and make sure you know who you tackle on the street.
Drive fast, take chances, and thanks for reading.